I know it is not Halloween time (Cough. . . I wish it was) but I was in the mood for this film. Since the second movie is coming out near the end of September, I do not think it is much of a problem. This movie appeared three years ago, released by Sony Pictures Animation and directed by Genndy Tartakovsky. (Believe it or not, he also directed two great shows Samurai Jack and Dexter’s Laboratory) It earned $358.3 million worldwide, garnering moderate responses from audiences and mixed reviews from critics. I watched this. . . maybe two years ago so my memory of the film was foggy until I watched it today. Let’s get started with the review.
The story begins with Count Dracula playing with his infant daughter Mavel and laying plans for a monster safe haven. The hotel he builds has powerful defenses to keep away humans so monsters can vacation in peace and safety. By Mavel’s 118th birthday, she wants to see the world and plans to leave until her father tricks her into thinking humans are still cruel to monsters. She believes him and he thinks that nothing can go wrong. Unexpectedly, a human named Jonathan finds his way into the hotel and Dracula panics and tries to get rid of him.
This plot has so many cliques I do not know if I can even list them all. . .
- Overprotective father
- Dead mother
- Mother killed tragically
- High-spirited daughter
- Old-fashioned dad
- Hip- groovy guy comes along to change things up
- Only young male daughter has ever encountered turns out to be her true love
- Dad lies to and tricks daughter to keep her safe
- Dad must go and bring back daughter’s love
- Dad and hip teenager bond and he relaxes
- Monsters aren’t scary at all!
It goes on and on. . . you get the idea. The plot is overly simplistic for adults but for kids I think it is fun enough. This is a movie I would only watch every once in awhile during the Halloween season.
PLOT EXECUTION: 3/5
I am usually not too hard on movies with predictable plots if somehow they pull it off well. (Example, Big Hero 6 (2014) ) This movie. . . fails in that respect. Because the story is so watered down it does not deliver well. Many people probably watched the movie and thought “Ehh. . . it is okay if this movie is predictable. It is just for kids.” Sorry, but movies like this give animation a bad image. Believe it or not, it is possible to have an intricate story and execution that both kids and adults can enjoy. There are many examples: The Incredibles (2005), Spirited Away (2001), Beauty and the Beast (1991), Up (2009), The Lion King (1994). Some movies are even too complicated for kids to really understand: Princess Mononoke (1998), Watership Down (1978), Inside Out (2015), Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996).
Unfortunately, this movie will become dated FAST. Why? Well. . . it tries too hard to be hip and up to date on the latest trends in music, humor and ideas. Whether it was Jonathan listening to “I’m Sexy and I Know it” (Ugh. . . I understood why Dracula thought he was being tortured) or updating the Wolfman, Mummy, Frankenstein and Invisible Man’s band (complete with Autotunes!) The movie was a big pop culture festival. Also, there was a lot of Butt humor. Seriously, there was. Several shake their butts at the camera, there is bouncing on butts, farting stupidly . . . blah blah blah. It annoyed me.
Dracula’s tragic backstory also felt really forced. How is it possible that Jonathan could have heard anything that remotely resembled Dracula’s story? How did they have a picture of his wife at the castle? Why did it not burn in the fire?
Another note, why do the humans speak English if they live in Transylvania? Why was there a Mariachi Band in a Romanian country? (Then again, I liked the band. They made me laugh.)
To be fair, the idea was creative and some of the jokes were pretty funny. It is not too bad. All its plot elements were just reused cliques.
Just as its plot and execution are predictable, so are its characters. I did not mind Jonathan as the wacky, hippy traveler or Mavel as the sweet, high spirited daughter. What bothered me were the monsters. All the real monster characters lived and breathed on their stereotyped image and personality. Count Dracula with his cape and Bela Lugosi accent, Frankenstein (Did you know this is the name of his inventor?) with his bolts and fear of fire, and The invisible Man with his glasses are just a few of these. The Mummy was pretty funny but sort of a jerk. Out of all the monsters I would say the Wolfman was the funniest and most enjoyable to watch. The idea that he was married with a mob of terrorizing children cracks me up.
As for how they interact, it is a mixed deal. Dracula’s relationship with Mavel is cute but the overprotective father unwilling to let his daughter go has been done too many times. Most of the monsters talked to each other like old college buddies. Mavel and Jonathan’s relationship was nice but there were never any moments where I felt the “ZING” they talked about it the movie. (Where did that even come from?) I wish there could have been more scenes that showed how their love blossomed, rather than simply relying on the “love at first sight” trope.
Hah. . . my favorite character was actually Esmeralda, Quasimodo’s rat. (Why was he considered a monster? That made no sense.) I think it was the design that did it for me. From a distance, I loved how it looked when it pointed out Jonathan behind Dracula. It looked cute.
There is not much to say about the music. The instrumentals were pretty standard and Mark Mothersbaugh was nominated for an Annie award for his musical score. (He has written a lot of scores for kids shows and cheap movies. The only ones worth mentioning are Regular Show (2010–) and The Lego Movie (2014) ). The “cool” pop music annoyed me. The end song. . . UGH how I hated that scene! Why must animated films do this?! (Other Examples, Mulan (1998) and Despicable Me (2010) )
For a small time animation studio, the visuals were relatively impressive. I liked the color scheme and the overall look of the castle’s interior. The character designs were actually pretty unique and nice to look at, though they were still pretty cartoony and overly simplistic. Besides Jonathan, I did not like how animators designed the humans. (What IS IT with 3D animation botching that up?) Also, Frankenstein’s design confused me. How was it that he could take himself apart and looked like a clay assembly action figure yet still eat and things?
PERSONAL ENJOYMENT: 3.5/5
For what it is, I like the movie and might watch it in October for fun. (YEAH! Halloween spirit go!) It is not my favorite but it is a nice kid’s movie with a warmhearted message and recognizable characters. Compared to other film’s made 2012 (Life of Pi, Lincoln, and Wreck it Ralph) it is not that great. Just average.
OVERALL SCORE: 3.3/5
1. Jonathan: Are these monsters gonna kill me?
Dracula: Not as long as they think you’re a monster.
Jonathan: That’s kinda racist.
2. Dracula: [against the window of an airplane, sees a Twilight movie playing] This is how we’re represented, unbelievable.
3. Jonathan: Uh, can I just ask? What exactly is this place?
Dracula: What is this place? It’s a place I built, for all those monsters out there lurking in the shadows. Hiding from the persecution of human kind. A for them and their families to come to and be themselves. A void of torches, pitchforks, angry mobs. A place of peace, relaxation, and tranquility.
Jonathan: Cool, so it’s like a hotel for monsters?
Dracula: [irritated] Yes, exactly. A hotel for monsters, way to sum it up.